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Soaked in history and beauty – the British Isles should be considered a priority for any self-respecting traveller. If you have never visited ‘this sceptred isle’ before then there are a thousand reasons to tempt you over – I hope to show you just a portion, in the hopes you may discover the rest.
England is a fascinating tapestry of history, threads from all our many disparate periods interweave to create the stunningly complex picture you see today. Great Britain became an island around 5600 BC, when it completed its gradual break off from the European sub-continent. And since then the island has been a hub of human history, much of which is still visible, especially as we hurtle through the millennia.
Throughout the country there is still evidence of prehistoric human life, the arcane roots of British history. Nowhere is this better seen than in the Southwest, England’s Neolithic heartland. Here you can see Stonehenge, the most striking of England’s ancient monuments. This 5,000-year-old site is as ancient as the Great Pyramid at Giza and just as mysterious and is complemented by a landscape littered with similarly ancient monuments – like Avebury Stone circle.
Leaping forward, our island couldn’t avoid European history for long as the Romans first invaded in 55BC, before becoming our masters in 87 BC. During there dominion they erected thousands of buildings across the country in their bold classical style. You are never far from Roman history in England, but the best sites include: the roman baths in Bath (I wonder where the town got its name?), which are stunningly well preserved or Fishbourne Palace in Chichester. Or, for the traveller who wants to stray all the way to the Anglo-Scottish border, Hadrian’s wall is a true wonder of this isle.
Despite plummeting into the dark ages after the Roman’s departure, we soon recovered and a whole procession of Kings and Queens sculpted this county into its current shape with varying degrees of grandeur. Now our country is beset with castles – over 1500 in total (in various states of repair!). Some of the best to see today include, Warwick Castle or Dover Castle. Or why not visit Hampton Court, built by Thomas Wolsey before he was executed, and the property was seized by Henry VIII.
Or if you would prefer the relatively modern castles, the royal family currently have 26 royal residences, some of which you can visit such as Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Or, some of the UK’s most historic and breath-taking homes are open to the public. The National Trust alone owns of 200 stately homes, and there are more still, each one a cornucopia of history and its own miniature tapestry of famous names and events: try Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth House or Highclere Castle.
Although the surface of England is strewn with sites of historical significance, (many of which are beautiful in their own rights), the landscape of England is also as various and beautiful as any country in the world. And this natural beauty is evident all over! There are 13 national parks in England and Wales, all of which are uniquely stunning. Try the austere attraction of the new Forest, or the Tranquil majesty of the Lake District, or perhaps the mysterious Dartmoor and Exmoor, or the heady Peak District.
We have hardly scratched the surface of the burgeoning history this island represents and could hardly illustrate the wondrous sumptuousness of the place. The marriage of these two cornerstones of tourism is what makes England so special to visit and it really has to be seen to be believed – so visit glorious England!
The Small Group Touring Company
Having received a mention in the Doomsday book in 1086- Lacock village has seen the coming and going of at least a thousand years of English history- nestled by the river Avon in the north of Wiltshire. However, it is for its most recent history that the village is receiving its far-flung fame, as it has become a go-to location for the British film industry, hosting pride and prejudice (1995), Downton Abbey (2010-2015) and most importantly, the juggernaut of British culture, Harry Potter. I want to explore why the village is such a perfect film location for the Harry Potter Franchise and why it’s such a wonderful place to visit. Click here for Downton Abbey and Harry Potter Tours
Lacock Village and Harry Potter
First, let’s take a look at where in the franchises eight instalments you can spot Lacock’s characteristic charm.
You will see the village of Lacock predominantly in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the half-blood prince (2009). In the first instalment of Harry Potter film, Lacock is used to represent Godrick’s Hollow and one of Lacock’s many traditional stone houses is where Lilly and James Potter are murdered by lord Voldemort. And in sixth instalment- Lacock represents ‘Budleigh Babberton’ where Harry and Dumbledore find Horace Slughorn– and convince him to take on the post of potions master. The whole episode was filmed in Lacock and you can see a number of Lacocks famous buildings- the distinctive timber framed houses of Church street and later a large brick mansion on Cantax hill.
However, the real Jewell in Lacock’s crown- especially for its burgeoning film career- is Lacock Abbey. Built in 1232 and having undergone many architectural renovations, the building is a prime spot for various films and has subsequently been chosen to represent both Hogwarts and Downton Abbey! Harry Potter fans will instantly notice the medieval archways of the cloisters, which have represented the corridors of Hogwarts
on several occasions. Furthermore, the beautiful gothic stonework of various crypt-like rooms made them perfect locations for both Snape’s potions classes and Quirell’s defence against the dark arts in the first Harry Potter Film.
Why is Lacock Village so perfect for film?
What makes Lacock village so perfect for the film industry is the fact that it seems frozen in time- untainted by modern developments and perfect for the antiquarian sets of the Harry Potter films. The fact is that Lacock has been unchanged for centuries and there are historic reasons for its antique appearance. Lacock was formerly one of the very few places at which you could cross the Avon river, twinned with its ideal location between bath and London, it developed a reasonably successful wool and cloth trade. A couple of centuries of prosperity would have given rise to the majority of the finer buildings visible today Lacock. The dominate family of 17th century wool trade in Lacock, the Colbornes, lived at the very same house depicted as Horace Slughorns, on Cantax hill. However, due to a new road between bath and London which bypassed Lacock as well as a failure to modernise, the industry declined. A lack of development in its key industry lead to a lack of development in its infrastructure and Lacock became frozen in time. With the help of the national trust, the village largely looks the same as it did when the last cloth worker, Richard Perkins, lived there in 1851.
Lacock Village is the platonic idea of a quintessential English village- so not only can you enjoy the more modern pleasure of visiting a top film location but you can simultaneously throw yourself back to a simpler time of English elegance and savour this quaint village’s aesthetic charms. Although it appears frozen in time, Lacock continues to be a living history.
See top filming locations from the award-winning ‘Downton Abbey’ television series and several Harry Potter films on a full-day tour from London.
The Small Group Touring Company